A PEOPLE OF TRADERS
The earliest occupants of what is now Cote d’Ivoire seem to have come from the southwest (present-day Liberia) and the north (present-day Mali). In the 13th century, waves of migrating Mandingo, a people of traders, settled on the edge of the great forest and developed activities such as gold mining.
The country began to find its place in the “Gold Belt” stretching across the region. In the north, where Islam became the predominant religion, big commercial towns such as Kong and Bondoukou became veritable city-states. Until the 18th century, their history was intertwined with that of the mighty empires that emerged in Ghana and Mali. The Baoule people settled in the centre of the country, the Agni in the southeast. On the coast, the population came into contact as early as the 16th century with European seafarers lured to the area by gold, ivory and the slave trade.
PRODUCING AND EXPORTING
France imposed a protectorate in 1843 before organizing it into a production colony after the 1885 Treaty of Berlin, which split Africa up among the European powers. France’s intention was to squeeze as much wealth out of the country as possible and exploit it for its profit alone. A railroad provided access to the hinterland’s resources - timber, rubber, palm oil, cocoa and coffee - which were harvested and exported, in addition to gold and ivory. The development of those activities was based on the exploitation of the local population for the colonists’ profit alone, but nevertheless it laid the groundwork for the country’s earliest economic infrastructure, the most important being the wharf, intended for large ships, in 1904, the railroad, from 1904 to 1926, the Vridi port canal connecting the lagoon to the sea, from 1936 to 1950, and the port of Abidjan, starting in 1951.
THE “IVORIAN MIRACLE”
In 1960, Felix Houphouet- Boigny, the first President of independent Cote d’Ivoire, took a decision that determined the country’s future: economic development based on two cash, cocoa and coffee. By 1975, Cote d’Ivoire was Africa’s most prosperous former French colony. But the “Ivorian miracle” ground to a halt by 1980, as plummeting raw material prices brought about a drastic fall in the country’s revenues. Meanwhile, the single-party model, then the norm nearly everywhere in Africa, increasingly came under challenge. In 1990, the Parti Democratique de Cote d’Ivoire (Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire, PDCI) relinquished its status as a party-State and made way for a multi-party system, heralding sweeping institutional reforms.
- Coastline: 520km
- Population: 22.6 million
- Gross domestic product (GDP): $ 25 billion
- GDP per capita: $1,100
- Currency: Franc CFA (1 euro = 656 FCFA)
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